Let’s look back on Tom Seaver’s work on the mound against the Chicago Cubs.
This week, baseball lost an icon. Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver passed away at the age of 73 on Wednesday after a battle with dementia. Looking back at his countless accomplishments, it’s easy to see there were few clubs that could go toe-to-toe with him. The Chicago Cubs were no exception.
His July 9, 1969 start against the North Siders is one that Cubs fans from that time likely still haven’t forgotten. Seaver took a no-hitter into the ninth before outfielder Jim Qualls broke through with a knock. Not that it mattered – the Mets won that game 4-0 and eventually, as Chicago collapsed, the ‘Miracle Mets’ went on to win the first World Series in franchise history.
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Seaver, known then as ‘Tom Terrific’ put the team on his back, going 25-7 and allowing a league-best 6.7 hits per nine. His 2.21 ERA and MLB-best 283 punchouts helped him take home National League Cy Young honors and even finish second in NL MVP voting, losing out to Willie McCovey of the Giants.
The right-hander’s success began, really, as soon as he first toed the rubber. He won Rookie of the Year in 1967 as a 22-year-old and went on to earn All-Star selections in 10 of the next 11 campaigns. In his career, he won 20 or more games on five separate occasions. This guy was the epitome of consistency.
During the first 10 years of his career, Seaver never posted an earned run average north of 2.92. In just under 2,800 frames over that stretch, the three-time Cy Young winner worked to a 2.47 ERA and 2.57 FIP, averaging 18 wins annually.
There’s nothing the Fresno, CA native couldn’t do on the mound. Like I said – a Rookie of the Year, three Cy Youngs, a trio of ERA crowns, a World Series ring from ’69, a dozen All-Star selections – all culminating in a plaque in the hallowed halls of Cooperstown.
His career against the Cubs amounted to far more than that one July start in that fateful 1969 season. All told, Seaver took the ball against Chicago 53 times – the most of any opponent other than the Atlanta Braves, who he faced 54 times in his career.
Seventeen times, Seaver turned in complete game efforts against the Cubs. He held the team to a .220/.286/.333 line over his 20-year career, working to a 2.97 ERA at the Friendly Confines. Really, what he did against Chicago mirrored what he did almost every time he took the ball.
Last night, when I heard about his passing, I texted a friend of mine, “They just don’t make them like Tom anymore.” And they don’t. Every five days, Seaver took the ball – and if you were cheering against him, especially early on in his career when he was the face of the Mets, you never felt great about your ball club’s chances.